Award-winning barley variety developed on P.E.I. honours farm leader

·4 min read
Melvin Ling fills his tractor with Ling barley as he plants on the family farm on the Little Bungay Road.   (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)
Melvin Ling fills his tractor with Ling barley as he plants on the family farm on the Little Bungay Road. (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)

An award-winning variety of barley, bred on P.E.I., honours the legacy of farm leader Allan Ling, who passed away in 2018.

Ling was a driving force behind the Atlantic Grains Council for years, advocating for research and funding for the industry.

This spring, Allan's brother Melvin is planting Ling barley on land that he once farmed with his brother at Lingdale Farms.

"It's nice to be able to plant Ling barley, and think about Allan when you're doing it. We farmed this land for quite a number of years," Melvin Ling said.

"When we worked together, we didn't always agree on everything, but we always worked things out. And it wasn't too many days we didn't see each other, from the time we grew up, little guys playing with little tractors, to what we do today."

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

'Keep going ahead'

Ling said his brother was always focused on improving his industry.

"Always interested in making life better for farmers, always doing research," Ling said.

"If you're not developing something new, if you're standing still, you're probably going backwards. You've got to keep going ahead."

Allan Ling convinced cereal and oilseed growers in Atlantic Canada to adopt a voluntary levy, which has raised almost $750,000 for research in the region.

Randy McAndrew/CBC
Randy McAndrew/CBC

His brother said regional research is important.

"Growing conditions here are a little bit different than they are, say, in Western Canada," Ling said.

"We do grow some seeds that came from the West, but it's better to develop it here in the Maritimes. We have different conditions here, higher humidity and different growing season, different length to it."

Naming honour

When Allan Ling passed away in April of 2018, his friends and colleagues at the Atlantic Grains Council wanted to find a way to honour him.

They approached Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and in July 2018 a new barley variety developed by scientists working in Ottawa and on P.E.I. was given the name AAC Ling.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

"It turned out that Allan's passing coincided with a few very promising barley lines that we had produced that hadn't been named yet," said research biologist Dan MacEachern.

"We decided upon this one line that looked very promising, and so we named it AAC Ling."

I think it's important to recognize people like this, and hopefully this does him justice
—Dan MacEachern, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Last summer, MacEachern created a sign for the Ling farm, explaining the legacy of the variety planted there.

"People like Allan are rare. He put so much of his life into the agriculture industry," MacEachern said.

"I think it's important to recognize people like this, and hopefully this does him justice."

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

Melvin Ling said it is an honour to have the variety named for his brother.

"The field we grew it in last year was right below Allan's house, and Dan MacEachern, he made up a sign for us," Ling said.

"A lot of people were very impressed with the yield. We had a bit of a wind one time, and the Ling barley stood up pretty good in the wind, too, so a lot of people are impressed with it."

Submitted by Melvin Ling
Submitted by Melvin Ling

Top yield winner

In 2021, AAC Ling landed in the agriculture spotlight in Atlantic Canada.

It was the top barley yield winner in an annual competition connected to the Yield Enhancement Network, with AAC Ling producing a yield of 2.49 tonnes per acre on the New Brunswick farm of Eric Theriault.

Alan Miller worked with Ling on projects at the Atlantic Grains Council and said his colleague would be pleased to see his namesake barley thriving.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

"Oh, I think he'd be looking down with a pretty big smile on his face," Miller said.

"He is a gentleman, but he's also a competitor. So the fact that his variety was No. 1 would be very important to him."

The fact that his variety was No. 1 would be very important to him.
—Alan Miller

Miller described Ling as "one of the good guys," saying he recognized the value of research in preparing for the future.

"He just had a way about him of mixing respect for the past, but recognizing we need to change," Miller said.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

"I think it's really fitting that they named a new variety, that was bred on Prince Edward Island, after after a guy who had such a good vision for the future of the industry."

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